As part of the Ashland Independent Film Festival, today I saw Food, Inc.
I was already aware of most of what the film talked about -- I've read Fast Food Nation
and The Omnivore's Dilemma
(and both of those guys were in the film).
I did walk out with a couple of thoughts I wanted to share:
1) The film blames much of the problem on the industrialization of food. I think doing so misses the important point that without
industrialization, then poor people just won't be able to afford things. Look at mass production as applied to the car industry: only rich people could afford cars when they were essentially hand produced. Only after Henry Ford introduced mass production could the average person afford a car. Of course, mass production has its own dark side, but it isn't as one-sided as "mass production bad".
2) One of the most interesting things to me was the reminder of how our capitalistic society fails because we don't give the consumer the tools and knowledge to make an informed decision. It's shocking to know that the food industry can sue someone for "slander" for simply saying what their own food preferences are. It's obscene to think that laws exist which can make it illegal to publish photos of what goes on at a feed lot. Without having access to information, consumers can not make informed choices.
How many people really understand that the low cost of that soda they are drinking isn't really so low when you look at the actual cost. For example, through taxes, we pay corn growers a subsidy which has the net result of keeping corn prices low. If one were to add that back to the can of soda, that would raise the price slightly. There's the rising health costs to treat diabetes and other health problems caused by the food people eat. Add that in to the cost of your soda as well. I won't even start on the ecological impact of the pesticides used to grow that corn, or the fact that we essentially have a "monoculture" when it comes to farming, so if anything upsets the crop, it could be truly devastating (whereas if we had true diversity in farming, one crop might fail, but others probably wouldn't).
The film did end on a positive note, however. It reminded people that they can vote with their dollars at every
meal, by choosing to spend a bit more money (if they have it) to buy something that is better for them, or better for the factory workers, or better for the animals involved. The film also reminded people that when they are depressed because the FDA doesn't shut down plants that sell contaminated Peanut Butter and that it looks like the foxes are guarding the hen house, that not too many years ago the tobacco lobby was strong and kept any anti-smoking rules from happening. With enough grass roots efforts, the tobacco companies lost their fight, and the "big business" food producers can lose as well.